Who is… Wellipets?
Thanks to Wellipets, rainy days and puddles of mud are met with a smile. Since the eighties, this cheerful, durable, and yet supple variant of the classic Wellington boot has been making sure that (little) adventurers make it home with dry feet. And the best of all: this brand of rain boots works as sustainably as possible. When it comes to design and production, the team relies on knowledge gained from their other children’s shoe brand: STONES and BONES. And the exchange works the other way around as well, because the latter brand will become more sustainable thanks to lessons learned from Wellipets.
Wellipets rain boots are made from PVC. At first, this may not seem like a very ‘green’ choice to make, yet that’s exactly what it is – at least if you take every step of a boot’s life cycle into account. For starters, PVC is waterproof (important detail) and exceptionally durable, so the boots last practically forever. Moreover, the material is easy to recycle – a step that can even be taken care of in Wellipets’ own production facility – and it loses almost none of its appealing properties in the process. Clearly, this has little to do with single-use plastics. Quite the contrary!
Every Wellipets design is built around just one main material, PVC, making the boots 100% recyclable and circular. The insole is made from recycled wool and is likewise the result of a cradle-to-cradle production process. Wellipets boots are a prime example of so-called seasonless ‘mono products’: they are available in just one style and one colour. This reduces the risk of surplus stock, as well as being the best remedy against overproduction. Wellipets is planning on expanding its product range but will never compromise on sustainability nor lose its eye for detail.
Wellipets rain boots are manufactured in Le Marche, a region in central Italy that is well-known for its shoe-making tradition. From the PVC to the insoles and even the recycled cardboard boxes that Wellipets boots travel in: all these materials are also sourced from Italy. The happy result is that the entire process, from resources to production, takes place within a 35-kilometer radius. By producing locally, Wellipets avoids unnecessary transport as well as guaranteeing a superior quality. In addition, the production facilities as such are quite environmentally friendly too, because Italy’s electricity grid is a lot greener than that of most other manufacturing countries.
Wellipets are sold through retailers, as well as via the brand’s own web shop, which allows visitors to choose between a new pair or refurbished Wellipets. Customers are also free to return their Wellipets that are worn out or no longer fit. Whenever possible, the team cleans and repairs the boots, so they can have a second, third or even fourth life. This significantly reduces Wellipets’ environmental impact.
Thanks to the brand’s clever material and design choices, you can use its boots to slide through mud and stomp through puddles for years on end. And what’s more: you can easily pass them on or send them back to Wellipets, so they can make other customers happy. Giving one pair of boots several lives is a very environmental thing to do – even more so than recycling shoes. That’s why Wellipets rewards customers who return their footwear to be resold. A win-win for both Mother Earth and the consumer.
When the boots are finally and truly at the end of their life (or rather: lives), Wellipets is happy to take them back for cradle-to-cradle recycling – no questions asked. This means that the brand assumes full responsibility for turning everything they produce into new Wellipets boots. That’s why the team takes the possibility of recycling into account right from the design stage – as befits a cradle-to-cradle approach. It seems safe to say, then, that Wellipets boots are both literally and figuratively ‘the greenest boots ever’.
What challenges are you currently facing?
De Vreese: “We’ve been focusing on quality right from the start, so that’s one box we can tick. Yet Wellipets remains a huge challenge – and we’re still only doing one product in one colour. The biggest hurdle for the future will be to make every item meet the same stringent criteria, but we really have the ambition to allow no exceptions under the umbrella of the Wellipets brand. Moreover, we want to use the experience and knowledge we gain from Wellipets to make our other label, STONES and BONES, more sustainable in terms of production and commercialisation.”
What does sustainability mean for you?
Vincent and Alain De Vreese: “For us, sustainability is about more than ‘green’ materials or circular business models. A lot of the so-called eco-friendly processes we see today don’t deserve that label at all. And when it comes to business models, greenwashing is unfortunately still more prevalent than concepts that actually work.”
“Sustainability means quality, first and foremost. The longer a product lasts and the more lives it gets, the better for the environment. Extending the lifespan of one item is so much better than using two ‘eco-friendly’ items for just a short period of time.”
“Circularity – or even recyclability – is not an option for every type of product. Restricting the definition of sustainability to these processes would mean excluding numerous industries and product groups, because not every company is able to adhere to this version of sustainable development. Quality, however, is something that every manufacturing company can work on. Focusing on this characteristic lowers the threshold and allows every member of the industry to make an impact – as a complement to the eco-friendly materials and circular business models that are currently also high on the agenda, of course.”
Which lesson(s) do you want to share?
De Vreese: “Lead by example. Don’t just say you’re going to do something, but actually do it! Just get that ball rolling, and you’ll quickly see where there’s room for improvement. And don’t let a difficult start discourage you. Once you are working on it, the concept will grow beyond what you had initially imagined.”
This page was created in July 2021. Curious to find out where Wellipets stands now? Feel free to head to their website or get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.